Emergency responders in West Hartford held a day of training at King Philip Middle School on Thursday, based on an active shooter scenario.
By Ronni Newton
Fire alarms could be heard blaring inside and outside King Philip Middle School on Thursday, and although it wasn’t a true emergency, the alarms were being taken very seriously.
While West Hartford Public Schools students and teachers were on April break, the town’s emergency responders were inside and on the grounds of the school for a large-scale training exercise focused on “command and control” procedures in the event of an active shooter situation. A sign in the driveway indicated that a police training operation was underway.
Capt. Michael Perruccio said that while police officers regularly receive in-service training in dealing with active shooters and other scenarios, it’s important to engage in realistic large-scale training exercises as well. The last one was held at Bristow Middle School, he said.
Thursday’s drill at King Philip focused on “command and control,” Perruccio said, and included several sessions so that officers and supervisors from all three shifts were able to participate. Debriefs were held following each drill.
The West Hartford Fire Department, which has increased its role in emergency response since the paramedic program began in August 2016, was also fully invested in Thursday’s drill with firefighters from all stations and supervisors involved and on site throughout the exercise.
“One of the recent changes is that the fire department has taken a more active role in how they are going to rescue victims,” Perruccio said. Firefighters have now been issued bulletproof vests and kevlar helmets as well.
The “rescue task force” model that West Hartford is now following, and was practicing Thursday, allows firefighters who are providing emergency medical care to begin treating victims in areas that are “warm” – clear but not necessarily completely secured, Perruccio said. It’s an approach that has been shown to increase survival rates, he said.
“Victims,” played by students from a local technical high school, had make-up professionally applied so that their “injuries” appeared more realistic to the first responders.
American Medical Response (AMR) as well as representatives from the State of Connecticut also participated in Thursday’s drill.
While emergency responders hope they will never be faced with the scenario that was simulated on Thursday, preparation, through effective training, is critical for both police and fire departments, Perruccio said.
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